At wits' end...
At wits' end...

My humble attempt at coming to terms with modern technology

An optimistic, happy-go lucky person who hails from Kerala, the 'Gods own Country'. As a passionate marketeer and an avid reader I enjoy sharing my views on Books, Social Issues, and Public Speaking.




At wits' end...

'Personal excellence through the Bhagavad Gita' by Swami Sukhabodhananda: Part2

Ramya VasudevanRamya Vasudevan

In the first part, I covered the aspect of creating harmony in our lives. This is possible if we stop treating our problems as unique and start looking at a solution. Simply put, Instead of justifying our problem and cribbing about it, we should try to be a part of the solution. Read the post here: Part1.

In this part, I am going to focus more on how you can improve your awareness and focus on personal excellence. In the Gita, Krishna talks about detachment and asks Arjuna to continue his activities with a sense of detachment. Attachment leads to ego and we end up associating everything with 'I' or 'my' or 'mine'. Note that being detached does not mean unconcerned or careless, it means that we don't identify with that object which enhances our effectiveness. For example, a surgeon cannot operate efficiently if he identifies a child as his child, but he will be able to do a better job if he is treating a neighbour's child. That is detachment. A performer who is passionate about his/her work is not attached to the audience, not worried whether they are clapping or not; he/she just focuses only on the work and lives in the moment. This focus on the task at hand and not worrying about the result is what will bring us the best results. That's why the Gita says, be centered, be calm and be non-addictive towards both success and failure.

Even a highly successful person has to leave everything he owns behind at the time of death. Then why are we getting so attached to our material possessions? Enlightenment will help us realise that living in the moment without getting attached to fruits of our actions is the sole source of happiness. Our happiness should never be defined by success or failure. Usually, we base our happiness on others' statements - we are happy when others praise us and sad when we get criticism. But if you think about it, life is just a movement from moment to moment. Treat it that way and our lives will be beautiful!

Swamiji is quick to remind us that serious commitment is required for enlightenment. Just imagine,

If water falls on a hot pan, it gets evaporated instantly. When it falls on a lotus leaf, the lotus becomes more beautiful, but with a little breeze, the water will disappear. But if the same water falls on an oyster, it takes that one dew drop and converts into a pearl. We have to be receptive of the knowledge, just like the oyster receives the water droplet and converts it into something even more beautiful and ever lasting

If you want enlightenment, you have to focus intensely on that and that alone. The Gita is like a musical note or a raga - we need to have the maturity to understand it, and to get that, we need to have commitment.

Swamiji then talks about the three realities of life - the internal reality, the external reality and the transcendental reality. It is very important to understand these in order to grasp the depth of Gita's verses.

Recently after Sundar Pichai became the CEO of Google, one of his speech went viral - it got touted as the 'Cockroach Theory'. His speech goes like this:

At a restaurant, a cockroach suddenly flew from somewhere and sat on a lady. She started screaming out of fear. With a panic stricken face and trembling voice, she started jumping, with both her hands desperately trying to get rid of the cockroach. Her reaction was contagious, as everyone in her group also got panicky. The lady finally managed to push the cockroach away but it landed on another lady in the group. Now, it was the turn of the other lady in the group to continue the drama.

The waiter rushed forward to their rescue. In the relay of throwing, the cockroach fell upon the waiter. The waiter stood firm, composed himself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on his shirt. When he was confident enough, he grabbed it with his fingers and threw it out of the restaurant.

Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior? If so, then why was the waiter not disturbed? He handled it to near perfection, without any chaos. It is not the cockroach, but the inability of the ladies to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach that disturbed the ladies.

I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it’s my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me. It’s not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me. More than the problem, it’s my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.

The Gita also teaches the same thing. It's not the situation that affects a person, but the way he or she respond to it. That's why the Gita talks about three realities - the external reality, the internal reality and the transcendental reality.

External reality is the situation, internal reality is your interpretation of the situation. It is as if you are looking at the situation through your internal filters. If the filter is mushy and dirty, you will look at the situation from a polluted state of being and you feel that a certain object is the source of your chaos. But the object is not the cause of the chaos, it is the 'internal reality that interprets the external reality' that is the cause. So in this process, life becomes a mixed reality, a combination of internal and external realities.

For example, external reality is 'the beautiful diamond necklace my friend/neighbor is wearing'. My internal reality says, 'I do not have that necklace'. My internal reality is the cause of my unhappiness; it is causing chaos, not the external reality. We have to be aware of this and be alert.

The third level of reality, the transcendental reality, is like space and will free you from such narrow mindedness. For example, inside a pot, there is space and even after the pot gets destroyed, the space continues to exist. Likewise, though you feel that your consciousness is entrapped in the body, the Gita says that the body exists in consciousness. When a body is destroyed, it appears that the consciousness is destroyed, but that's not true. When the body is destroyed, consciousness is not destroyed. Consciousness in the body is destroyed. But then the body exists in consciousness. This reality is called transcendental reality. Krishna explains it in this way:

It is not that as though neither you, nor I, nor these Kings have never existed before; nor is it that we shall cease to exist in the future

It means that there is a center in you that is unaffected by birth, there is a center in you that is unaffected by your death. That center is very pure, and permanent (paramatmika tatvam). There is such a center in all of us, but we are looking only at the periphery of ourselves, not at the core. In our quest for self excellence, when we look at an issue, we need to look at our own self more deeply. Look inward, says Swamiji.

Body, emotions, mind, being - all of these can become a prison. If we continue to live in the prison for a long time, we become too comfortable in it. Personal excellence can only happen if you come out of this prison. The whole message of the Gita is this: transform the prison into a presence. The mind could be purified through the yoga of knowledge, called the Gnana Yoga. Emotions could be purified using Bhakti Yoga. The being could be purified using Dhyana Yoga and the body consciousness could be purified using the Hatha Yoga. There is also Karma Yoga, which talks about discharging one's duties without expecting any rewards. In this way, through Yoga, a prison can become a presence which will no longer be an obstacle to personal excellence.

Gnana Yoga is about understanding, Bhakti Yoga is about devotion (again of 3 types - shravana/listening bhakti, sankeertana/chanting bhakti and smarana/memorizing bhakti). Through Bhakti Yoga, our mechanical emotions transform into a magnetic center. Through Gnana Yoga, our buddhi (intellect) transforms from a mechanical center to a magnetic center. Through the principles of Hatha Yoga and Karma Yoga, our mechanical body movements become magnetic. This is when the transformation really happens - the body will become a magnetic center.

It is not easy to get to this stage and as someone who is yet to get there, it would all sound too abstract. But once we commit ourselves to understanding the essence of the Gita, we will get there and that is when we grasp the true meaning of these terms. For now, let me stop here. I hope this article was able to bring some clarity to the various concepts covered in the Gita. Let's give it some time to digest and then discuss it further.

An optimistic, happy-go lucky person who hails from Kerala, the 'Gods own Country'. As a passionate marketeer and an avid reader I enjoy sharing my views on Books, Social Issues, and Public Speaking.